Robots, buyouts, and spinoffs: four short stories for the future of education and technology

Here I’ll continue my new practice of sharing several short stories from the past week that strike me as connected to important trends.  You can find more of those trends among the others I map at FTTE.

ITEM: Amazon’s home robot/entertainment center/node for controlling humans Alexa has a new “skill” (a routine, like a macro).  It plays AI-generated music.

This brings together a few trends: new(ish) interfaces (here, voice and audio only); automation used for interfaces and also for creativity in some form.

(Some may remember me telling terrified/disbelieving/bemused audiences two years ago about the rising tide of computer-generated creative content.)

ITEM: a Chinese company has bought up one American college, Westminster Choir CollegeBloomberg thinks this is a rising trend.

A few thoughts about this: note that it’s a very small and specialized school.  We could see more of this as many private colleges face continued economic pressures, and as China’s elite continues to grow enormous economic power.

Rider, based in nearby Lawrenceville, said the 98-year-old music college lost $10.7 million since fiscal year 2015. Rider suffered a blow in November when Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its outlook from stable to negative. Beijing Kaiwen made the best proposal to keep Westminster operating as a choir college in Princeton, Rider said in a statement.

I’m not sure of the Chinese buyers’ motivations.  Is this an investment property with a profit strategy in place?  Is owning an American campus a prestige good (it’s in the town of Princeton)?  How does it fit in with potential US-Chinese economic strife?

From the American side, will some see this as a national security threat?  Will Trump mobilize anti-Chinese racism?  How viable is that in 2018?  Will we see a drive to protect our precious American academics from the Chinese threat?

ITEM: an Australian group is launching its own Delphi-method-using future of education report. Jason Zagami (Griffith University) has started this up, aiming to include all of Australian education, from primary to post-secondary schools.

Australian Educational Technology Trends

I don’t know much more about this than what that page displays.  Professor Zagami, would you like to comment?

So many projects are springing up in the wake of NMC’s death: CoSN’s Driving K-12 Innovation, EDUCAUSE’s stewardship of Horizon, and our FOECast.  There’s the trend of demand for more intelligence about the future of education and technology.  There’s also the developments in professional associations.  If this is a small startup, rather than an association, perhaps that’s a signal about the way forward: smaller, nimbler, less remunerative.

ITEM: Bruce Sterling offers the term “makertainment.”  That means entertaining videos based on maker activities.  He was thinking of Simone Giertz (YouTube).  I think this is the video he mentioned, wherein Giertz creates, hunts, and eats a robot:

I prefer this one of hers, just because of the title: “I built a hammering machine that destroys everything”.

Sterling’s been writing about makertainment for a few months, including a note about a “laser bazooka” and a more prosaic box building. Here’s Sterling’s whole SXSW keynote:

What trends does this story (the term, the videos, the practice) embody?  For a start we have the continued presence and development of the maker culture movement, including DIY video programs that now seem to make money.  There’s also the sense of technology enabling new forms of creativity, including engagements with non-digital concepts (here, the politics of food and hunting).  There’s also the rise of women in male-dominated tech fields.

Plus, robot eating and laser bazookas.

(thanks to Ed Vielmetti and Jonathan Nalder for links)

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1 Response to Robots, buyouts, and spinoffs: four short stories for the future of education and technology

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